A few years ago, David Maisel created a body of work titled “History’s Shadow”.Here is what he says about it:
“History’s Shadow has as its source material x-rays of art objects that date from antiquity through just prior to the invention of photography. The x-rays have been culled from museum conservation archives, re-photographed and re-worked. Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed. The series concerns the dual processes and intertwined themes of memory and excavation.”
I find this body of work thought-provoking partly because of its simplicity. By specifically choosing to use x-rays of objects that pre-date the invention of photography, Maisel asks us to consider aspects of these objects that it was impossible to “know” without the photographic medium. The x-rays animate these objects in a weirdly magical way. As a viewer, I think about the vision and intent of the humans who created the objects in the first place, as well as wonder what the makers of the x-rays hoped to discover so many years later. It’s a wonderful approach to memory and history- two of my favorite subjects.
I recently attended the Society for Photographic Education’s national conference in Baltimore. Joan Fontcuberta was a keynote speaker (articulate, funny, thoughtful- every keynote speaker should be so engaging!) and he said many things that really struck me. He was talking at one point about photographic truth, a topic with which he has been intensively engaged throughout his career. (Go to his website and you’ll see what I mean.)
He said, “In today’s world, photography is Google.” He went on to explain that, back when photography was born in the 19th century, everyone looked at it as the ultimate arbiter of Truth. If it was photographed, then what was seen in the photograph must be true. It did not take long for photographers to challenge this notion. And today, people treat the internet the same way. We search for information on Google and tend to believe that whatever results we find are true, even though we know that isn’t so.
I found his notion really interesting, and had something to chew on for the rest of the conference.
A friend of mine recently clued me in on the work of Deborah Parkin. She writes a lovely blog, in which she shares many thoughts about how her life intersects with her photography.
She’s unfailingly honest about the conflict she feels about the time spent on photography vs. the time spent with her young children. This is something all artist/parents wrestle with, I think.
I particularly like the mood in her photographs- they are very evocative.